NFL

Wet footballs could change game

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Mike Pereira

Mike Pereira was the NFL's Vice President of Officiating from 2004-09, having spent the five seasons previous to that as the league's Director of Officiating. He also served as an NFL game official when he acted as a side judge for two seasons (1997-98). Follow him on Twitter.

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The officials are going to have a ball today — a lot of them — as they get ready for the NFC Championship game between the Giants and 49ers.

It will be rainy and windy at kickoff, so what effect will that have on the game and will the officials be able to keep the balls dry?

I already know the answer to the second part of that question . . . probably not.

Normally, each team prepares 12 footballs to be used for their offensive snaps. By rule, the home team must also make 12 additional balls available in case of emergency. In addition, the visitors, at their discretion, may bring 12 back-up balls for games held in outdoor stadiums.

All 48 of those, plus the eight balls used for kicking downs will likely find their way into the game at some point.

Here's a hint for those watching: the darker the balls get, the wetter they are. The wetter they are, the heavier they are.

So what will the game plan be to try and keep the balls dry?

I'm sure there will be at least six ball attendants that will keep all the balls not in use in ball bags and vest pouches as well as having an abundance of towels available to them.

"Towels" is the operative word here. That's all that can be used in an attempt to dry a ball once it has been in play.

By league rule, you are not allowed to use any foreign substance such as rosin or anything else that might absorb moisture.

You also can't put balls in front of sideline heaters or blowers for any reason.

how they got here

HOW THEY GOT HERE

Retrace the paths of the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers that got them this far.

One other issue that will be a factor is the mechanics change involving the umpire in 2009. For the majority of the game, the umpire positions himself approximately 14 yards from the ball in the offensive backfield.

Prior to this change, the umpire positioned himself only six yards from the ball in the defensive side.

Obviously, it will take the umpire more time to cover 14 yards than it did six. This means he will not spend as much time protecting the ball with a towel as he used to.

Bottom line: the balls used today will be much wetter than prior to 2009.

Which team will that favor?

We'll find out in a few hours.

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